3 Ways to Set Better Boundaries for Nonprofit Employees

Setting boundaries at work can be hard, regardless of the field you’re in. Being passionate about your work can sometimes make it seem like you have to say “yes” to every task that comes your way, especially for nonprofit employees.

Nonprofit employees are known for their dedication to their jobs and drive to spread their organizations mission and values with wide audiences. While they work to drive their organization’s mission forward, some days it may feel impossible to draw the line between their work and personal life.

In 2019, The World Health Organization (WHO) added “workplace burnout” to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). And according to recent reports, burnout rates have risen 9% in recent months, while work-life balance is still the No. 1 priority for candidates seeking employment. Flexibility is something that can easily be implemented by employers, but often enough is dependent on the employee setting boundaries for themselves.

How can nonprofit employees experience a greater work-life balance? Boundaries can help build strong and respectful working relationships, and can help build accountability within the organization. Setting boundaries also keeps your employees at ease, and will more likely ensure they’re an effective team member.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is easier said than done for those working in the nonprofit sector, but not impossible. Here are 3 simple ways to help set boundaries at nonprofit organizations that help professionals find a healthy balance between their work and personal life.

1. Take advantage of what your organization has to offer

The best methods for creating a comfortable work-life balance are often already made available to you. Nonprofits were faced with navigating a newly remote world during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so organizations should have measures in place when it comes to working in the office or operating to work remotely. While every organization's resources are different, find out whether or not yours offers flex time, allows remote work, or even four day work weeks.

Be sure to also encourage employees working from anywhere to take regular breaks and get fresh air. If you notice a person frequently working late, you might send them a quick message reminding them to take time for themselves. Some employees may not be aware of the support made available to them, or unsure on how to access these resources, so creating clear visibility, understanding, and emphasizing the importance of downtime and a work-life balance can go a long way.

2. Communicate clearly and often

Eighty percent of employees say they experience stress on the job, and nearly half of U.S. adults have said that stress negatively affects their behavior. Employers want to know exactly where their employees stand, and what is expected of them. Direct communication not only means being direct about where your lines are drawn, but is also working through layers of conversation to fully understand something. When boundaries are in place, employers and their employees are able to talk more freely, openly, and honestly.

Taking the time to communicate also avoids possible mistakes that could result from miscommunication. Mistakes do happen, but taking the time to communicate clearly can help you be more efficient and create more time for yourself.

3. Learn to say no.

In the long run, saying no can help you be more productive in your job. Saying yes to too many commitments can affect your current projects, and add an additional level of stress that isn’t worth taking on. Saying no helps you establish healthy boundaries, and allows your coworkers to have clarity on what they can expect from you. If you’re worried that saying no can might produce conflicts, complimenting your team’s effort while saying that you're unable to commit can help soften any disappointment on their part and keep you in good standing.

Beyond these three steps towards creating a healthier work-life balance for your employees, the message should come directly from the top. One of the best ways to stress the importance of a healthy work-life balance and boundaries for employees is hearing it from current nonprofit managers and leaders. It’s important for nonprofit executives to pay attention to work-life balance, and set an example for their current and prospective employees.

This blog post was inspired by Flexibility Doesn’t Guarantee Work-Life Balance: 3 Ways Companies Can Set Better Boundaries.

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